Pennsylvania Looks to Its Own Water Infrastructure Funding

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, February 28, 2008 (ENS) – By executive order, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has established a high-level task force that will evaluate what is needed to ensure Pennsylvania maintains a sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure in view of continued budget cuts from the federal government in recent years.

A federal Clean Water Needs Survey found that Pennsylvania is facing nearly $11 billion in unmet drinking water infrastructure needs and at least $7.2 billion in unmet wastewater infrastructure needs.

“Our water and wastewater infrastructure is aging,” said Governor Rendell. “Pennsylvania is facing nearly $20 billion in unmet water-related infrastructure needs, and that doesn’t even take into account ongoing capital costs and expenses associated with operations and maintenance responsibilities.”

“We need to begin developing a comprehensive plan now that supports a sustainable network of systems to protect public health, and ensure citizens and businesses don’t lose out on the quality and dependable services they have come to expect,” said the governor.

The infrastructure initiative follows on Governor Rendell’s pledge last month with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to lobby for the funding to upgrade the nation’s aging infrastructure.

The Sustainable Water Infrastructure Task Force is to consider new funding options and non-structural alternatives to capital upgrades, such as nutrient credit trading, water re-use and conservation.

It is responsible for developing a report by October 1 that provides recommendations and financing options to support water-related services in the governor’s fiscal year 2009-10 budget proposal.

Members of the task force are to include representatives of the administration, General Assembly, academia, and the state’s Office of Consumer Advocate, as well as local government and municipal associations.

“Shrinking support from the federal government means the financial burden associated with the needed work is increasingly falling on states and local municipalities,” said the governor. “The commonwealth alone has suffered a 50 percent cut in the federal funds we had received previously to support water infrastructure. Without that needed support, our economy, environment and quality of life will suffer.”

The governor pointed to continued cuts in the federal Clean Water State Revolving Fund, one of the state’s most important tools for funding water infrastructure improvements.

Pennsylvania’s share of the state revolving fund program has been cut by about half in the past three years, down $30 million to $27 million, while President George W. Bush’s upcoming fiscal year budget proposal calls for another $330 million in cuts to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, largely aimed at wastewater projects.

The president requested only $555 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund in FY 2009, which would be the lowest level of funding for the program in its history if enacted.

“While I’ve called on Congress to restore these valuable funds, we must take steps to ensure we have reliable systems in place that deliver dependable services,” said Governor Rendell.

“The high-level task force I’m establishing through this executive order will focus on finding solutions to Pennsylvania’s drinking water and wastewater system needs,” he said, “either through new funding sources or cost-effective, non-structural alternatives.

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